Saturday, June 28, 2008

Come Onna My Kitchen

I am a waitress. I am a waitress because at some point some years back, when I was still of an age that being a waitress was an acceptable and respectable thing I got a job as a waitress and realized that I was very good at it. Some days. Some days I am the worst waitress in the world and I will forget whether you are drinking sweet or unsweet tea, I will kick your chair when I pass, and I will caress the back of your head with my boob when I lean over you to retrieve your empty plate. You will pretend this did not happen. Hopefully. However, the bad waitress days are few and the good waitress days are plenty and most of the time I love my job. I love my job because I love to walk across a floor, I love to carry many things in my hands, like so many things that I imagine people are noticing and thinking "My! That waitress can carry more things than is humanly possible!". I love to multitask. As I'm pouring water at the server station, my other hand is already reaching for lemon slices and my body is already turning to be in position to pick up a bread basket and I'm thinking about table 12 who needs refills and as soon as I do that I must drop the check on table 3 so that means that I'm calculating the tax in my head, oh 7.5% on a slice of quiche and an iced tea is .68 so that comes to $9.68 and by the time I've thought of that I greet Mrs. Blankenship at the door, "Oh! Hi Mrs. B! How are the cataracts? Has Sally had that baby yet?" and turn and drop drinks and pick up plates and ask if everything's alright and already turning again to bus the plates in my hands, pick up the order for table 8, tell a dirty joke to the grill chef, think about rebrewing the tea, think about the level of the lemons, check the 86 board to see if we're out of something and out the door again to the dining room and smile and smile and smile. If all is going well, and I do my best to make sure everything is going well, it feels like I'm flying. Everyone is happy. I love it when I look around the room and all the diners are smiling. If they aren't, I try to make it so they are by the end of the meal. Maybe I flirt with an old man, maybe I ignore the old man and ask the wife how she's doing and really listen when she tells me her hip hurts. If I go to a table with a very glamorous looking woman and a shy looking woman, maybe I'll tell the shy one that the color of her blouse makes her eyes look amazing. I don't care if the glamorous woman is paying and I may be shorted in my tip,  the shy woman my carry that compliment all day, maybe she'll smile more and the people at her office may smile more back at her. If you open your eyes there are always good things to say to people, and I never lie, or say something just for the money. It makes me feel my job is important, that I make a difference in their lives. The food is not my job. It is the chef's job to make the food taste good. It is my job to make the people able to enjoy the food, and if they do not, fix it. You can't enjoy your food if you are uncomfortable. I'm lucky that I work in a restaurant that does have really tasty food, it makes my job so much easier. If I worked at an Appleby's I would stab myself in the throat.
        Having said all this, I am terrible at fine dining. That is what this restaurant becomes at night so I can't work nights. The money is great, yes, but you can't talk to the customers, you can't laugh. You can't dance. Once, at a restaurant, a manager walked past me while I was getting down while putting sour cream in little plastic cups and said "Stop dancing or your fired". I quit that job. If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your re....staurant.
     I busted my chops in a very different sort of restaurant than where I work now. The man who ran that place had a lot of fire and a lot of passion but very little business sense. Part of my training was to inform me that a "Safety Meeting" was when the staff convened in the walk-in to smoke pot. I did not smoke pot but I liked to cram in there with everyone else and sip a little cold white wine out of a soup cup while the frosty air filled with that beautiful green fragrance and we all calmed down and told jokes. Service was shoot from the hip. We were all expected to develop our own style and develop we did, every table had a very different experience. We tried to match the personalities of the servers with the tables but that didn't always work, the whole place had the feeling of eating on a ship in stormy waters with everyone careening here and there, port to starboard, with the place crewed by children and escaped exotic animals headed for other territories. We were drunk, we were stoned, we were sweaty, but damn if we weren't a family and we did care about the food. I miss that place, I miss the camaraderie we had, but I don't miss coming in to find my fellow server puking out the back of his van or the disher awol because he got arrested the night before. Once the cops actually came to the restaurant and the chef tried to get one of the severs, this sweet little girl from south Florida, to sneak out to the dry storage shed and hide the bong. No, I don't really miss that. But the thing is, I learned there. I learned how to do things on the fly and how to improvise in sticky situations. How to think on my feet and how to, no matter what, make the customer happy.
      Someday I will run my own cafe. I dream of it at night when I'm falling asleep and in the morning over coffee. I think about the good parts of all the places I have worked and I plan how to fit them together into a crazy quilt that could be beautiful and strong. I think about a place that does not careen so much, but does allow room for a bit of listing. A place where the food is good and simple, where everyone gets fed, where you can see the cooks laughing in the kitchen. Someday I will serve my shortbread with coffee, and I will make a mean shepherds pie, I will slice jeweled tomatoes from local gardens onto sandwiches, and I will greet you when you come through the door. And I will encourage all the servers (who will probably be my family and friends and need no encouragement) to dance. Until then, all this is just training.  
         

12 comments:

Ms. Moon said...

Good God! Another beautiful boogie of a piece!
Let's open that restaurant! Let's do it!
Oh girl, you are something.

Miss Maybelle said...

Mama, you are too sweet. Yes, we should open the restaurant. We need to think of a good name.

Ms. Moon said...

Cafe Bean-Bean?
Chez Mama?

Ms. Moon said...

Oh wait. Of course:
Chez May!

juancho said...

I always wanted to open a cafe and call it "Big Yum."

downtown guy said...

I think you should call it the S.S. Delicious and have a nautical theme but not actually serve seafood.

Ms. Moon said...

Except for fish sticks, of course.

Miss Maybelle said...

Great idea, Bro! We could have a brass bell and encourage children to make pirate hats and break into shanties.
Mama, remember the time I bit into a fish stick and it had a chunk of glass in it?

Ms. Moon said...

Yep. I wrote Mrs. Paul herself and that b.i.t.c.h. only sent me a bunch of coupons to buy more of her glass-riddled fish sticks.
I don't think I've bought a fish stick since.

Lazy Rani said...

best emma goldman quote reprise ever.

TShaw said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and I have to say.. I am enthralled. You write so beautifully. I just had to comment. Keep it coming! You're a treasure

apathetic bliss said...

OMG! I think I am in love with you! You Mom just commented on my blog saying I had to read yours....she was right (damn mothers...they often are).

I do differ in that I love fine dining though...the money is sweet and I refer to it as my acting job.

stop by and visit sometime...